GAMING – Thinking about poker: financing someone else’s game

fullHouseI recently returned from a trip down south (“’Way down south in Dixie’”) and happened to observe two interactions between poker players. These prompted thought about poker and of behavior in which poker players either willfully engage and/or allow to occur. Before detailing these – the first in this article, the second next issue – I recommend a poker stop for any of you on the road looking for a night’s respite and a good game.

The Grand Hotel and Casino in Shawnee, Okla. is a venue to which I will happily return. On the fringes of Oklahoma City, the hotel is a well-kept, hospitable stay which on top of having good dining facilities and other amenities such as spa services, occasionally hosts concerts either by up-and-coming artists (usually country music as this locality is where Garth Brooks had his start) or those who have had their day of fame. To make matters more attractive to those who eschew the machines to play poker, there is a quiet poker room where I found $1 – $2 no-limit hold-em, $3 – $6 limit hold-em and a pot-limit Omaha game, all going simultaneously.

The first instance of questionable poker behavior observed was when one player (and from what little I had seen of his play, not a good one) in essence hounded another to borrow money to rebuy into the no-limit game. He badgered, pleaded, cajoled and yes, outright begged the other – who was in a game and playing – to ‘loan’ him cash. I could tell these two knew each other for some time, most likely at the tables but possibly out there in the world, as the beggar’s most common argument was “C’mon, you know I’m good for it!” It was blatantly obvious the beggee did not want to fund his ‘friend’s’ game and kept putting him off. Finally – probably out of desperation to get this guy to leave – he peeled off a C-note and handed it to the beggar with the admonition “You can pay me back when you see me again.”

We all have been placed in this uncomfortable position by players who think their luck will change by the infusion of ‘new money’; mostly it prolongs the downward spiral of the loser who, trying to recoup his losses plays fast and loose and then departs not long after busted out and owing his benefactor. I put the word loaned in air quotes as this usually is the beginning of a downward spiral to their ‘friendship’ and the one who loaned the money will never see his ‘friend’ or his money again.

How does this make you feel when, out of the goodness of your heart and willing to help a ‘friend’, you do lend the money? Most often the borrower will then go for a long time, ‘forgetting’ the amount borrowed, how long ago it was borrowed, who lent it or the fact that it was your generosity that got them the money in the first place. When they next see you they will have enough to buy into the game but not enough to pay you back. They will begin avoiding you whenever you meet and the resentment – in the borrower that he owes you and in you that your ‘friend’ has made zero effort in repaying your kindness – distresses and ultimately destroys the relationship.

There is an old saying perhaps from Aesop, Ben Franklin or Jimmy the Greek: “Never a borrower nor a lender be.” What this means is, to put it bluntly, is never ask to borrow money and never loan money. I qualify this to add ‘at the poker tables’ because we have all lent money to true friends, relatives and others. If we have ever purchased a house, car or large-ticket item we have gone into debt big-time to purchase that item. But consider the ton of paperwork accompanying it; a tree dies for all of that and everything from term, interest and payoff options are excruciatingly spelled out in the best and tightest lawyer-ese around. Do you really want to hand your ‘friend’ a hundred and then ask him to sign an IOU? If they really are a friend they will make every effort to pay you back quickly; if they are a mooch you’ll never see the money again. So which are they?

A phrase I found useful when being asked for a ‘loan’ is the following: “Sorry, its policy that I never borrow nor do I ever lend money. You have to understand that, right? It’s just policy.” If they are really a friend they will understand what you are saying. If they pester you further, they indeed are not a true friend and a stronger “No, I can’t do that. It’s policy!” will turn them away. You play sensibly (I trust) within the limits of your own bankroll; you are helping that person – albeit with ‘tough love’ – to stay within the limits of theirs. They will be disappointed for the time being but they will respect you and your stance. You are thinking about more than just poker.

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